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Saturday, 31 March 2007

My funeral

James' great aunt Alice passed away this week. What a terrible loss, she was a very influential part of our family and a true lady - no really, she was Lady Alice.

A colleague from work died recently, and was laid out in her wet suit, ready for one of the dives she enjoyed so much. How very embarrassing for her! I couldn't keep a straight face at the funeral home.

Words cannot express the emotion I experienced when I saw the gas bottle and mask leaning by the side of the coffin stand. If the intention was to put the air bottle on her back for eternity, it would surely cause an explosion in the crematorium, or if they intended to bury her remains with the gas bottle, perhaps they would have found it more convenient to put her in the coffin lying face down, otherwise she would just look odd in the coffin with her torso trussed up in the air.

I am led to believe that gas bottles are rather heavy, how embarrassing to have the poll bearers staggering under the weight of your coffin! Tears just rolled down my face, I thought I was going to die myself...

Darling Max became very distressed recently, when he saw one of those dreadful horse drawn black funeral carriages, galloping down Park Hall Road to Norwood Cemetery. He asked me why the baddies were taking away the dead person, and I know what he meant. It was like a scene from something by Bram Stoker, the great black feather plumes on the horses heads!

No, I would like a long sleek modern Mercedes hearse. And, I think I should be buried in my wedding dress. It is an enormous Vera Wang creation, and cost a small fortune. I shall have no opportunity to wear it again, and I did look fabulous in it, although it was an enormous dress! I would hate to have a huge coffin shaped like a Dairylea triangle...

Actually no, I think I should like my coffin to look minute, just tiny. Perhaps I should be buried in a simple black Prada shift dress with a small platinum crucifix on a chain around my neck - that puritanical look might fool the Lord himself into believing I was a modest motherly sort, although I would like a small 'viewing window' in my coffin, so that the mourners can view my fabulous shoes.

Perhaps my coffin should be white, like a child's, or wenge, and plain with no embellishments. I should be cremated secretly first actually, and have a burial ceremony for the tiny coffin containing my ashes, so that everyone can admire how small and light I will be...

I would like a selection of young choristers from Southwark Cathedral, their voices breaking with emotion as they sing. I would also like lots of speeches about how lovely I was, and lots of undignified wailing and crying, arum lilies everywhere, terribly tasteful, just like that film Imitation of life?

Did I tell you great aunt Alice left Freya an enormous white gold and 3.5 ct sapphire and diamond ring? I shall naturally be wearing it for safe keeping until Freya is twenty one ..., or thirty five. I loved Aunt Alice, what a loss.

I wonder if I could have earrings made to match?

Grandma Elizabeth is sick with grief...

Friday, 30 March 2007


I took a career break when the children were babies, and I have never worked so hard in my entire life. Talk about "out of the frying pan and into the fire!"

When I was at home I thought that I was loosing my mind, but now upon reflection I can see that I was simply suffering from exhaustion. Towards the end of the third year, James was at his wits end and insisted that I needed help.

He arranged for us to have an au pair, and things improved substantially.

At that time I was completely in awe of my friend Muriel who was ever calm while her two children raged all over SE21. They were indeed the talk of Dulwich. I so envied her serenity, and was sure that I would die from an anxiety attack on more than one occasion when we were out together.

Muriel was quite accustomed to being asked to leave Cafe Rouge, the coffee shop in Dulwich Park, Pizza Express, and every other establishment in the environs. She assured me that it was all the fault of the intolerant, un-childfriendly shop holders, and not the outrageous, unsanctioned behaviour of her offspring.

I remember one afternoon in particular in Cafe Rouge, when Poppy occupied herself by opening all of the paper sugar straws, and poured their contents onto the great pyramid of cushions which she had constructed on the floor. It was only when Poppy introduced her chocolate milk into the mix that the sweet manager eventually intervened...

At this point, little Arthur was standing on the table next to ours singing "Wind the bobbin up", much to the horror of the customers trying to drink their coffee at that very table. Muriel tutted and accused, pulled faces and marched out without leaving a tip.

I knew then, that our friendship was doomed. I found socialising with Muriel and her two darlings far too stressful. More stressful than being alone with my babies in the house on a rainey day - baking.

I have never found unruly behaviour from children acceptable. When my two darlings socialise with children who have no boundaries, it becomes doubly difficult to expect good behaviour from them. They want to run free like their chums, and resent me for expecting restraint from them. It becomes an awkward situation all around.

Muriel always lectured me that I was too controlling of my children, not allowing their youthful exuberance to flow freely. I remember the time she watched my babies for me so that I could go to my GP to discuss my anxiety levels. When I returned to collect them, she was sitting on the floor of her living room demonstrating to the darlings how to light matches efficiently. "It is a valuable life skill", she informed me. At that point, the oldest of these little children was just four.

On the final occasion that I spent time with Muriel, she was chopping vegetables in her kitchen, peeling carrots I seem to remember. Arthur was sitting on her chopping board, stabbing an enormous Japanese folded steel Global bread knife into the surface between his knees - while singing "The wheels on the bus".

It was on that occasion that I noticed the large quantities of prescription drugs on Muriel's top shelf, Muriel laughed and referred to them as her little pieces of calm.

If Muriel and her husband (both vintage parents) have no control of these poppets now, I dread to think of what is to become of her and her beloved husband when these children become teenagers, bigger than their parents. I suppose they will calm down eventually, and perhaps crave some order and routine? But perhaps not.

I realised when Freya was three years old, that if I was to have any calm in my life I was to avoid the company of Muriel and spend some quiet time resting, back at work full time...

Thursday, 29 March 2007

Freya's Birthday

Today my precious daughter was four years old. It is hard to believe that the little poppet began life just a few short years ago, and is no longer a tiny baby.

No more bottles (of boiled water - clearly, the darling was breast fed), nappies (biodegradable of course), baby gates (removed from the bottom of the stairs, soon to be re-instated in my bedroom doorway to confine me in my imminent senility), high chair, tiny car seat or even pram! It is hard to accept that both of my munchkins' baby days are no more.

This next phase of their childhood shall entail the careful avoidance of the endless antics and bullying of the school gate mafia, God help me.

I wanted to mark the day in a special way. Freya was born more than eight weeks prematurely and was incredibly unwell following her emergency delivery. She weighed just four pounds and was ventilated for ten days. The entire family bears the scars of those traumatic, anxious first weeks.

I took an annual leave day and decided that a special treat was in order. I had my hair cut and coloured in Nicky Clarke, followed by an Eve Lom facial and all of the extras at the Marylebone salon in Spanish Place.

I don't see why the children should have all of the fun, it is the mothers who suffer the pain of childbirth after all. Freya was happy enough playing with her new toy kitchen supervised by our delightful au pair Ana. She shall have her party when the new school term starts after Easter.

All of her little friend's are out of town skiing or at Center Parcs, and James is working on a crucial deal at work - out until midnight every day this week. He is hoping to retire by Christmas, but until then I am virtually a single mother!

OK so you really despise me now. How bloody refreshing, I have been driving the damn Prius all week and the constant looks of approval from other drivers and even pedestrians is doing my head in...

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Set up!

Two Christmas' ago, great aunt Alice gave the children some little gifts that they accepted in a less than gracious manner.

The darlings had been forced to leave their precious gifts from Santa behind at Grandma Elizabeth's house in order to make the arduous 90 minute car journey from Wales to Bath. They had received all manner of sweets, treats and presents on the long Christmas day before and were exhausted, over tired and short tempered.

Great Aunt Alice is robust for her age, but was then in her 89th year and profoundly deaf. She had personally made a special shopping trip to buy the gifts, but the gracious lady had made the fatal mistake of wrapping both munchkin's gifts in 'My Little Pony' paper.

Max was not pleased, threw a tantrum of epic proportions and refused to accept the token. Alice was never blessed with children of her own, and appeared to be more than horrified by his behaviour, as was I.

My tiny man was just four years old then, so really, what else should we have expected?

This year, in an effort to avoid embarrassment, and alleviate any anxiety for Great Aunt Alice, I asked James' mother if I could select and provide the gifts for her - already wrapped. Small tokens that I knew the lambs would be overjoyed to receive.

Grandma Elizabeth assured me that Great Aunt Alice would be more than pleased with the arrangement and promised to discuss it with her. On Boxing day as per tradition, we prized the tiny poppets from their newly acquired treasures and drove to visit dear Great Aunt Alice who greeted us at the door of her enormous home on her zimmer frame.

Once again I clarified with Grandma Elizabeth that Great Aunt Alice was not offended at the idea of my providing her with gifts for the children. She assured me that Alice was relieved to escape the burden of a shopping trip.

I discretly presented Alice with two small appropriately wrapped gifts which she accepted with a puzzled smile. Alice's deafness meant that I could not even begin to try to elaborate or describe the contents of the small parcels.

Great Aunt Alice kissed me on each cheek and promptly ripped the Monsters Inc. wrapping paper open... I was bemused to say the least, but not nearly as confused as Great Aunt Alice.

Grandma Elizabeth had clearly not discussed the plan with our sweet octogenarian relative at all, or if she had, Alice had not understood. Nevertheless, she graciously accepted a pair of silver handcuffs and some loud green eye shadow and powder pink lip stick - which would doubtless have offended the sensibilities of even the late Dame Barbara Cartland.

I am sure that Great Aunt Alice has been given the impression that I am incredibly odd. I don't trust my mother in law at all. She appeared to find the calamity rather entertaining.

I am convinced that she planned the whole thing...

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Falling Standards

I enjoy living in London, specifically south east London.

OK then, I only really like Dulwich, but I am more than happy to celebrate being part of this socially and ethnically diverse population that is London. I consider myself to be cosmopolitan and open minded. Indeed, I catch the Number 3 Bus which goes through Brixton most days of the week and I am usually not even frightened!

On the top deck all manner of daily functions are carried out by commuters. People chat to each other, talk on their mobile phones, read books, newspapers and care for their pets (big dogs and occasional snakes... yikes!!!). Indeed, I watch children eat their breakfast from small individual cereal boxes each morning with their hands! None of this behaviour usually offends me.

When I was a girl, it was not considered good form to eat on public transport and certainly never in one's school uniform. I realise that times have changed. Most mornings I sit with my brushed steel Thermos coffee cup, drinking the lovely Latte that my super au pair Ana hands me as I dash out of the door. I stare out of the window, catch up on emails and texts on my Blackberry and read my copy of The Times.

There are still a few things I would rather not witness on the bus, for example, the occasional intimate telephone conversation or the couple who are trying hard to swallow eachother.

I really do not feel the bus is the appropriate environment in which to apply make-up, in particular mascara (mostly for health and safety reasons). What if the bus was to swerve or stop suddenly – that woman could be blinded! Sometimes it feels as though I am sitting in her bathroom with her. She applies her make-up on the bus every single morning. It is terrifying to watch.

Then there is the woman who I recently observed plucking the irritating whisker on her chin with a tweezers. That was so not a good look for a public place. Too intimate a procedure, don't you agree?

This morning, I was actually sitting next to a woman who was painting her toe nails!!!

In the name of God, it was rather a cold morning too. Why was she not wearing stockings? There she was, oblivious to the world around her, using obscene language each time the bus moved sharply. Has she no idea of the cost of a pair of wool crepe Episode trousers? My clothes could have been ruined, not to mention the seats of the bus!

Toenails should never be painted, or swear words used while the children are trying to eat their breakfast...

I should not be surprised if these people hang out their laundry to dry it on the hand rails next, floss their teeth and wax their bikini lines. Really, all life is here, God help me, Dulwich is far too close to Brixton for my liking…

Monday, 26 March 2007

Parent's Evening

The independent schools of Dulwich broke up for Easter break on Friday last. The roads were deathly quiet this morning, and it took less than 30 minutes for the bus to take me to work. What a joy.

I left my darling munchkins looking through The Great Little Trading Company Catalogue. Freya will have a birthday soon, and she needs to be encouraged to choose something tasteful – I couldn't bear to buy her that dreadful Bratz doll she has requested. It looks like a gangsta rappers moll. In my day, Barbie had a boyfriend called Ken, and he was clearly a pilot or a vet or something respectable. I should imagine that Bratz dolly dates a pimp or a drug pusher… It’s simply NOCD.

I like the 1950’s style pastel painted wooden toy kitchens, not those dreadful citrus coloured plastic kitchens from The Early Learning Centre or Argos. I am gently trying to guide my baby girl in the right direction.

James and I went to Parent’s Evening at the children's nursery school last Thursday. I left work early and was running past my favourite dress shop on Park Hall Road, when my chum Suze beckoned me inside. She was dying to show me some of her new stock, but not as much as I was dying to see it.

Suze has also just accepted delivery of a "Cleo" Facial Stimulator appliance, which apparently rejuvenates the skin, "through exercising the foundation muscles giving brighter eyes and fuller lips!" The woman has become obsessed with my furrows and insisted that I order a machine forthwith. These machines are not recommended for use in the bath – as serious electrical burns and even death could result!

Later at the school, Mrs Honeywell informed James and I that darling Max is the gentle giant of his class. He is happy to read, happy to count, happy to share and play. Generally a happy cuddly boy – just like his daddy.

Mrs Randa informed us that Freya is now a co-operative bright girl, happy to read, happy to count, happy to spend time with children who can share, happy to manipulate the boys to carry out tasks that she would rather avoid. Generally a happy pretty girl - just like her mummy.

I am sure that the stress of the various school selection assessments earlier in the year caused Freya to experience a huge amount of upset and anxiety. This would explain why she did not calmly settle down during her first term. The poor baby. I must endeavour to undo the damage that the dreadful school selection process has caused.

The stress furrows which I have recently acquired during the traumatic ordeal shall be no more. I will order a Cleo Facial Stimulator on the very day my salary goes into the bank. If that does not work, it is Botox for me…

Sunday, 25 March 2007


Yesterday afternoon I took Freya to a party on Turney Road dressed as a buttercup. James is normally happy to escort the children to all of the parties that they are invited to. However, he draws the line at parties that are too 'girlie'.

I dropped James off at West Dulwich train station with the boy wonder after lunch on my way to the party with Freya. It was clear that the boys had made plans of their own, as Max was full of whispers regarding their "big secret". It was actually rather sweet.

I returned home with Freya later in the afternoon to hear shouts and activity from the study. I must admit that I was more than a little alarmed. When I burst into the room with Freya at my side, father and son appeared to be shadow boxing.

James has purchased one of those new "Wii" games consol thingies. The two boys have been locked in the study for two days now, "playing tennis". James has convinced himself that as they are standing while playing, this is the equivalent of exercise. Indeed, he could hardly get out of the bed this morning as his shoulders were aching. James did a few "rounds of boxing" last night in his study before bed! (Ha, ha, ha)

I can’t begin to imagine what the neighbours are thinking as we have no curtains in the study. I am sure that from the street, James must appear to be some kind of deranged simpleton dancing about in an alarming manner.

I have never approved of computer games for children, and been convinced that they are in no small part responsible for the rise in childhood obesity. I imagined that they encourage solitary play, not allowing children to develop social skills such as the ability to share for example.

I would do almost anything however, to distract James from his obsession that darling Max should become a professional rugby player. Rugby injuries include cauliflower ears and paraplegia - it is not the sport of choice for my baby boy.

I leaned on the kitchen island this evening, flicking though my current secret copy of Martha Stewart Weddings (I must admit - my most favourite magazine) smiling to myself at the thought that this new game is encouraging my two men to spend hours playing together. Just marvellous.

I sadly realised that Freya is not welcome in the study at the moment. The tiny girl has asked to join in with the fun, and been refused. Not yet four, she doesn't have the co-ordination or agility of her older brother. For Freya, the game is not a “Wii”. The game is instead a "they".

I love the jewellery in Martha Stewart Weddings magazine. I think I shall have my platinum engagement ring re-set. Apparently yellow gold will soon be back in fashion. Clearly I would keep the enormous solitaire stone – perhaps I could have a setting made with lots of other diamonds all around it?

James, lost in his excitement while playing a particularly athletic game of "tennis" this evening, jumped into the door of the study, and all but gave himself a cauliflower ear!

No sport is safe enough for my men...

I think Max shall play chess.

Saturday, 24 March 2007

Life Experience

Ana our sweet au pair was weeping last night. Viktor has not been returning her texts. I try to guide and advise darling Ana in the manner of an older trusted sister, as she is so far from home. Although, it must be acknowledged that I am in fact older than her mother.

"Don't take life so seriously", I have advised. "You should be in no hurry to settle down at nineteen years old, you really should not marry before you are at least thirty".

When I was a girl, myself and my three sisters went to a terribly upmarket girls boarding school. There were very few "day girls" and there was a huge stigma attached to that, as the day girls were always local girls with scholarships who's parents could not afford the fees.

Many of the wealthy girls in my class took multiple foreign holidays each year. One girl had a father who was a diplomat, and arrived at the beginning of each term in an enormous stretch diplomatic car with darkened windows - the height of sophistication in the 80's when Dallas was the only show to watch on TV.

Another girl - Paulette James, had parents who were terribly cultured and took their children cycling around France on tandem bicycles each summer, when no-one had ever seen a tandem bicycle before. All the girls had amazing clothes and the newest LP's and most amazing make-up. Doesn't that all sound so dated now?

I was not grateful for the opportunity to attend the school at the time. I was simply conscious that I didn't belong with those girls. My uniform was not even second hand, it was forth hand, passed down to me and worn by all three sisters before it reached me.

I had a good sense of humour though, and so the boarders sometimes let me join in with their antics, but basically, it was worth their while to keep me on their side. I could go to the shops each evening on my way home from school and buy them their cigarettes. I didn't dare not to. I was never quite good enough to really belong as far as they were concerned.

Paulette had a hair cut like one of the girls from The Human League. She was very beautiful and took an amazing tan. I was terrified of her, she could destroy your entire social life with one killer look, and took great pleasure exercising in the power that she had...

Paulette had a handsome boyfriend with blonde streaked hair who looked like George Michael. Darren loved Depeche Mode before Wham! - but he had forgotten about them by the time us girls were doing our A levels.

Paulette's parents hated Darren. He was from a local council estate and worked painting the fences on Epsom race course. Darren always had money in his pocket and a can of beer in his hand. He drove an old mark 3 Cortina with all manner of spoilers and accessories. Paulette would not listen to her parents or the teachers, and was always sneaking off to see him.

I met Paulette about five years ago at the wedding of a mutual friend. Hilda insisted that myself and James were to be seated on the same table as Paulette and on the morning of the wedding, I almost had a panic attack I was so fearful. James held my hand tightly and assured me that I was not a little girl any more.

What a wonderful experience that wedding turned out to be! Paulette had actually married Darren! Paulette was simply enormous, and Darren is completely bald with no front teeth. He still paints fences at Epsom race course. On Darren's knuckles he still has that home made tattoo 'Depec Mode'... OHMYGOD!!!

I had forgotten about that! He had tattooed his knuckles himself when he was sixteen, and not realised he had not got enough fingers on his right hand to spell the word Depeche in full before he started, ...bless.

I waited a long time to see the school bully Paulette and her smiling husband look inadequate, but it was worth it.

Ana I said, "don't marry or settle down too young. Don't end up with a man with badly spelled tattoo's and no teeth, men can age so very badly."

She thinks I am crazy, perhaps I am. But I know I am right!

Friday, 23 March 2007

My Idol

I went to see Jo Brand tonight with some friends. She was doing stand up at a local school "The Charter," to raise money for a secondary school in Ghana. Jo appears to be everything I am not as a mother, I wish I could be more like her.

Jo seems calm, confident and great fun. Her children sound normal and well adjusted and she doesn't appear to stress about all of the rubbish that clutters up my head. She clearly doesn't give two hoots whether her girls play the bassoon, and is simply enjoying her children enjoying their childhood.

Jo talked about how she was recently invited to her daughter's school to talk to the children about her work. Many of us have had a similar experience, but it is rather different trying to explain to a group of five year old children what a stand up comedian does for a living.

One little boy immediately had a question for her:

"How do you make yourself change colour on stage?"

Apparently he thought she was a stand up chameleon! How very sweet. Aren't they just the best? I really love the kids - but I love them most of all when they are asleep, and I can take the time to calmly consider the things they have done to touch my heart during the day. When the children are in full swing, electric with energy and no sense - it is all a bit unpredictable.

Actually, I think I am a stand up chameleon. Different colours for different situations.

I must tell Jo the next time I see her walking in the park.

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Feeling good!

I had my appraisal today. I hate appraisals, I always become so anxious in anticipation of the dreadful meeting. I really don't like discussing my 'key realizations' or whatever the trendy current name is that they give to achievements this year. It seems like encouraging arrogance to me, and it just doesn't come naturally. Well, not too naturally...

I know that the men in this department earn twice as much as I do, and they clearly do not work any harder or take on any more responsibility than I, so why do I have to justify deserving my bonus in such a degrading way? I don't like to go 'cap in hand' to anyone.

It is substantially more expensive to be a woman than a man, so we should naturally be paid more than they. Men do not need to buy make-up, or a fabulous wardrobe to look the part. They are not required to spend substantial sums of cash at the hairdressers or beauty shop to be taken seriously. They wear the same old suit most days of the week and buy their underwear in multi-packs from chain stores.

I must admit I went a tad too far with the Big Boss, I am after all an incorrigible flirt. When BB asked me to 'justify' my required bonus and pay rise - I asked him if he was aware of the price of a pair of Wolford's - I really wish I hadn't. He began staring at my legs...

I caught the number 3 bus home tonight as usual. I trudged up the stairs and took my seat next to a stranger. I was just unfolding my copy of The London Lite - when I heard two females from a couple of rows behind talking out loud, (I know I admit it - I am always listening):

"Her mother is Irish, it doesn't necessarily follow that she is", said the first woman.

"Interesting", I thought to myself, "my darling mother is Irish, and what an endless source of mirth and heartache that is!"

"She catches this bus - she always says that. She catches the number 3", the woman continued.

Mmm, I wondered who? The mother, or the woman they are talking about.

"I bet she is a real glamour puss", said the second woman.

"How can they be talking about someone who they know that catches this bus but who they don't really know at all? Hold on", I thought to myself, now I was getting paranoid...

I began fingering my hair nervously, glad I washed it this morning, but wishing I had lightened the colour a little more - I was just so afraid of ending up ginger.

"I read her blog every day, she really makes me laugh - she takes herself so very seriously."

"I am sure that she really carries that enormous handbag".

OHMYGOD - they were actually talking about me, Dulwichmum!They don't know me, but they kind of do, and they like me, they even said that too! Thank God for that!

I stood up to leave, hiding my bag beneath my open newspaper. I turned around, and there they were! They didn't notice me at all. I was shocked to the souls of my beautiful Hobbs shoes. They were only about twenty years old! Why would they be reading the blog of an old married lady like me?

This year I don't mind if I don't get a big pay rise, I don't need it to make me walk tall right now. I have some people who read my blog regularly, and they like it! Life is good!

I am not gloating, honestly. I just feel happy today, and I wanted to tell you why.

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

New Age

James came home tonight (in daylight!!!) from work in a dreadful Japanese Toyota Prius! He parked it on our front drive initially. When I arrived and saw what he had done, I insisted he moved the Aston out of the garage, and concealed the dreadful car out of public view.

The ugly Eco vehicle is bright blue for Gods sake. It's shape screams 'sales rep' or 'mini cab driver'. People will think James has lost his super job! I was naturally horrified. If I allow this kind of new age thing to go on unchecked James will be consulting reiki healers and hanging crystals in my kitchen window's next, ruining the line of my expensive Poggenpohl minimalist cabinetry.

We had a long and frank discussion this evening. I told James he is taking his little projects at work far too seriously. I gave him the clear impression that I was in fear of him loosing his mind.

The only time I have ever noticed James take any non mainstream radical view in the past was when I was very pregnant with Freya, and he insisted that we joined the march through London protesting against the impending war in Iraq. James was completely right about that fiasco, so I suppose I should trust him.

Apparently, if global warming continues at it's current rate, vast tracts of the south of England shall be submerged in water, and the population of Greater London shall be forced to re-locate to Wales!!! James was serious. He googled me a little map, apparently even Burbage Road will be completely under water!

OHMYGOD! We would be virtually forced to live with my mother-in-law!!!

I shall have some of those large expensive solar panels installed on the roof forthwith - they cost much more money than they could ever save, and they will send clear value signals to the neighbours. We may even have a large tank installed beneath the back lawn to collect rainwater (or brown water as they call it - eugh!). I am sure the au pair will find it is perfectly fine for bathing and washing the dishes.

I wonder if The Dulwich Estates will allow us to have wind turbines installed on the roof just like David Cameron? I shall order one of those Anya Hindmarch five pounds shopping bags off Ebay for £300 - before everyone else gets one.

Protecting the environment is terribly now, darling...

Monday, 19 March 2007

Oh Mother

Last night I was feeling dreadful at the end of a day filled with tears and mayhem - my Mothers Day. At about 8.30pm, in swept my mother having earlier attended her book group at the home of a local widower Magistrate. My mother belongs to a group for widowed Roman Catholics - a form of speed dating as far as she is concerned. I had completely forgotten that I had agreed to drive her home.

I bought her flowers and wrapped a nice box of chocolates, and the children had made her a special card, although they were already in bed an hour before she arrived. I presented her the gifts with a kiss on each cheek, and she gave me a small wrapped book entitled "365 Inspirational Bible Readings for Mothers" - hurrah, one for every day of the year!

Mother could see that I was having a bad day.

"Lets see what your special book has to offer you for today", she cheerily volunteered in her best Irish accent.

"Yes", I said dryly, "lets just see"...

"I offered my back to those that stuck me, my cheeks to those who tore at my beard; I did not cover my face against insult and spittle".

"That's you!" she enthused...

"Whatever are you saying mother? I do get the very very occasional strong hair on my chin since I reached the other side of thirty, but I am not growing a beard", I laughed.

I think it was best that James drove her home, she was not amused at all.

Wherever she was going with that little snippet, it so cheered me up! Perhaps it was from God, especially for me as she said. The book shall come in handy I agree, we were running out of cat litter...

Mother thinks I am pure evil since I married "outside the faith" she is probably right...

Sunday, 18 March 2007

Mothering Sunday

You would think that this day - dedicated to and celebrating mothers would make me feel good. Instead, it is simply another opportunity for me to agonise over my shortcomings and inadequacies. No doubt, up and down the land mothers are celebrating their motherhood, gloating regarding the joys of parenthood and generally admiring their adoring offspring.

James spent most of last week telling me how today has been 'conjured up' by card manufacturers and florists, in a cynical attempt to improve flagging post Christmas sales figures.

This morning I was woken by my darling gentle Max in his Spiderman pyjamas, presenting me with a hand made card and a wilting daffodil. I must admit I shed an emotional tear - the first of many today. When Freya woke up she immediately caused mayhem as the shop bought card from James had already been written. She engaged in fisticuffs with Max as she been told she could write it - not he, and now she wanted to wear the badge that came with it too.

Freya won, she has been wearing the badge 'Number one Mum' all day, even before I received the card. My little girl can scream with the intensity of a pained whippet, the sash windows were shaking in their frames.

I sat at the breakfast table this morning, with my head in my hands - anticipating an entire episode of Trisha dedicated to my shortcomings. I love James with a great passion. He is the love of my life. On days like today I stay with him despite the children, certainly not because of them.

James presented me with a wonderful new Mulberry Emmy hand bag in that trendy lemon coloured Darwin leather this morning.

"Home spun cards are all very lovely and sentimental", I assured him during the week, "but where is a girl supposed to keep her purse and Blackberry?"

James appeared indifferent, worn down by my nagging as he handed it over. I shall never use that bag now.

God I'm superficial. I know he is disgusted with me too.

Saturday, 17 March 2007


I can't ever seem to get the balance right. I either give work everything I have (which considering I don't often get a full night's sleep is not a lot) or else the family is organised, I can't seem to keep all the balls in the air at once.

If one is looking good, the other has been well and truly abandoned.

If both are looking slightly disorganised - that seems about as much as I can manage. I am hoping to avoid any dangerous omissions with either.

I can turn up at the office, bristling with efficiency, impress the entire department with my slick professional persona, no run in my stockings and my hair hi-lighted to perfection, desk clear, every eventuality anticipated...


I can have the children well turned out, clothes fitting (they grow so quickly!) nails trimmed, hair washed fringes cut, homework done, gifts/cards/wrapping paper at the ready and details of all parties and play dates in the diary, dry cleaning collected, shoes heeled and polished, washing carried out, ironed and hung up, larder and fridge full of organic produce (and within it's sell by date), menu planned for the week ahead.

I cannot seem to manage both simultaneously. Something has to give. A working mother has to prioritise! I am quite simply not gifted at advanced multi-tasking.

My hair and nails must be perfect - this is obvious. My clothes must be pristine - this goes without saying (I bought a wonderful and totally amazing Laundry dress this evening from Eclipse on Parkhall Road and I shall be simply the belle of the ball at work next week - clearly a priority well chosen - thank the Lord for Elaine).

So the darlings have long nails, I shall toss the nail clippers at the au pair as I jog out the door to work on Monday morning. They can all eat at work/school. These munchkins are far too young to take their homework seriously, and children get so many presents at birthday parties anyhow, they don't even notice half of it. It is not very environmentally friendly at all really.

Hell, something has to give...

Why does it always have to be me?

Friday, 16 March 2007


Yesterday morning at North Dulwich station, waiting for the train to take me to London Bridge, I was reminising about when I was based full-time at London Bridge. I was pregnant there with both of my darling babies, Max and Freya.

The men at North Dulwich Station are all so very well dressed, proper business men, city types, they would not look out of place in bowler hats. Not a single one of them would ever stand up to allow me to sit down even when I was obviously heavily pregnant. I remember the discomfort of that daily train journey so vividly.

I was terribly unwell during my pregnancies. I never experienced any of that glowing skin and shiny hair business that the midwives promised. I got no sleep, was permanently nauseated and running to the toilet, and had bleeding gums from the time I conceived until delivery. My breath must have smelled like the floor of a hamster's cage.

When pregnant with Freya, my pelvis started to come apart at about five months and I had great difficulty walking. That was just the worst thing of all. Getting down the stairs onto the platform at North Dulwich train station was more painful than labour (I had planned caesareans afterall), and took an age.

Black men and women would always stand up and let me sit down, but never the Giles or Keith's in their expensive suits.

One morning I was so anaemic, exhausted and uncomfortable standing on the train, that I actually passed out. I collapsed on the floor - with a crash.

When I regained consciousness there was a smelly old tramp, kneeling by me and stroking my face gently saying;

"Never mind love, it happens to us all".

A lovely older african lady helped me to her seat, and told him I would be OK. They were so kind - guardian angels. I remember thinking:

"I want Max to be a proper kind gentle man like that sweet tramp", and he is!

Pregnancy is the pits.

Thursday, 15 March 2007


This morning the train from North Dulwich Station was particularly full. We were crammed on with only inches to move about like something from a scene in that film Dr Zhivago. I was forced to cling to an overhead shelf amongst sitting passengers, intimately close to a gentleman with ethnic attire and a long dark beard.

Before long I became aware of what sounded like his monotone chanting - I thought he could be saying a prayer - OHMYGOD, not A FINAL PRAYER???????

I looked around and the carriage had fallen completely silent. Everyone was wide eyed and staring in our direction, there were wires sticking out of his shirt!


I was not frightened for me. I would not know anything about it - clearly it would be over in seconds, but what about the darling children and my wonderful husband? My father died when I was so young, and our lives were destroyed, I wanted to cry out loud. My mothers heart is still broken, our childhood ended that same day......

The mans humming and mumbling became louder, I hung on to the shelf over head, and braced myself for the end...........

Then I noticed that the wires from his shirt led from a tiny MP3 player - the size of a postage stamp. People were staring at my silk electric blue Joseph shirt with mother of pearl buttons which had popped open in the crush. I was showing my best blue lace Aubade lingerie to the whole of East Dulwich! The shame.............

Shall I ever recover? I am not sure actually.

In future I shall drive to London Bridge and pay the congestion charge. What is the point in a personal parking space if you don't use it?

NOTE TO SELF: NEVER sing to oneself whilst wearing a tiny MP3 player and earphones on public transport.

Wednesday, 14 March 2007


What an eventful start to the day I had this morning!

At 7.20 am, my mother in law - Grandma Elizabeth telephoned me. It is just the busiest time of the day, trying to get myself dressed and groomed, and the children dressed and brought downstairs for breakfast. I can just about cope with a bullet point type urgent chat, but please ... no drawn out or mind game type conversations, they just cause too much stress.

Grandma Elizabeth opened the dialogue with the misleading phrase (and complete lie):

'Just a quick few words, I know how busy you are at this time of the morning',

and then proceeded to take forty minutes over an absolute epic of a conversation, causing me to miss breakfast, and arrive late for work with one half of my hair in cork screw type sausage curls, and the other half poker straight (never disturb a lady with her GHD).

Basically, Grandma Elizabeth phoned to gloat that once again she had 'saved the day' by remembering a relatives birthday and sending them a card from us! (I grind my teeth when she does this, as I hate the idea of anyone sending letters or cards in my name).

James' Great Aunt Alice was ninety years old today, and Grandma Elizabeth had sent a card from myself, James and the children - even carefully (she admitted) forging the children's signatures with her left hand, as she knew we would forget!........ Grrrrrrr. She sounded so proud of herself.

'You shouldn't have', I said.

'Well somebody had to remember', she replied, and continued;

'you have shown in the past that you cannot be trusted to remember'.


'No', I replied,

'you shouldn't have, we sent cards. James has all the significant dates programmed into his Blackberry' (snigger, snigger).

'Now I shall be exposed, Great Aunt Alice will think I am interfering again', she cried,'and you always forget!' she continued accusingly.

'I am sure Great Aunt Alice will see the funny side', I lied. 'James is collecting her from Bath this morning and taking her to Cheltenham for the races as a special birthday treat, I shall ask him to explain.' I said.

Grandma Elizabeth sounded sick! Oh, the joy.

'Why does Great Aunt Alice get to go with my son to a corporate race do? He never brings me!' she said petulantly.

'Well Grandma Elizabeth (she just hates it when I call her that name), Great Aunt Alice is having a special birthday, and although this type of do is usually just for the wives and partners, James made a special exception'.

Hurrah! I have waited for this moment. I have been so exhausted for the last five years with the children and breastfeeding and work and endless hours at the hairdressers. Now, thanks to advances in technology, I shall never forget a birthday or significant anniversary again.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Full time mother

Jamima - my super hi-powered 'career mum' chum telephoned me earlier today, to inform me that she has decided to put her career on hold. She intends to buy herself a Cath Kidston apron, a set of Nigella cook books and a dog. I am delighted for her.

Jamima returned to full-time work when little George was six weeks old, and as she and her husband Giles have decided not to have any more children, Jamima wants to spend some ‘special time’ with her baby before he grows up and flies the nest forever. George is currently in nursery school full time, and will be off to a local highly rated pre-prep in September.

'Now is the right time, as I will be able to catch my breath each day while George is otherwise occupied. During school holidays he will go to full-time daily camp.... clearly,' said Jamima.

'I just long to do the whole full-time mothering thing, but not if the boy is at home full-time you understand - that is just too much like hard work', she explained.

Jamima wishes to be able to devote herself to George and his imminent arduous homework and after school social life and hobbies. Sadly however, following years of trauma struggling to find a good nanny, the current fabulous wonder nanny, Sally could be issued with her P45.

Sally is a perfect carer for any little boy. She climbs trees, builds and paints tree houses and playframes, assembles and jumps on trampolines, bakes, dresses like a chap and has a huge black mole on her nose. She ‘lives in’ and eats like a bird (thus adding nothing to the monthly Ocado shopping bill) and has the figure of a pre-pubescent boy.

Jamima is therefore calm and assured that even when she is away on a conference for a week in Toronto, it is only George who gets good night kisses from Sally. Actually, if Sally made sexual advances on any man – chances are the gendarmes would be summoned!

Sally telephoned the agency that had originally provided Wonder Sally, to discuss the delightful nanny's future employment prospects and they remembered her immediately. Jamima was assured that Sally would not be unemployed and would be ‘snapped up’ imminently by another Dulwichmum!

Jamima has therefore decided to keep Sally for at least a further six months - just to see how she gets on at home. Giles travels with work a great deal, and since Jamima has read Raising Boys and realised that boys require a certain amount of rough play, perhaps the nanny should stay at least until George can start a 'contact sport' like rugby.

'Full time mothering will be such hard work', said Jamima, 'I am under no illusions. Do you have any idea where I could get myself a good dog walker?'

Somehow I don't anticipate that Jamima will suffer from wash day hands, do you?

Monday, 12 March 2007

Dressing up

This morning my baby girl decided that she wanted to wear her furry lion suit to school. She is not yet four and is not required to wear a uniform so, it was not a problem to indulge my tiny girl. On top of her Petit Bateau underwear, Boden leggings and T-Shirt, she wore the cosy faux fur lion suit, that Grandma Brenda bought for her last Christmas. She wore her lion hat – complete with main, and her tail trailed on the path behind her. I tied her tail in a knot half way down Alleyn Park as I didn't want her to have a nasty accident on her scooter.

She was the cutest button. Honestly, just too sweet, and completely took my breath away, I was so proud of her. At the door of the nursery every morning, all of the children and parents line up and shake the hand of the serene head mistress as they walk through the door.

When we got to the top of the queue this morning, the lovely Mrs Divine welcomed myself and Max and asked where Freya was, while stroking our lovely little tame lion.

‘Hello there Mr Lion, have you seen Freya anywhere on your journey?’ – she asked.

’Shhhhhhhhhh, it is me Mrs Divine, I am Freya in my special lion suit – I am not a lion at all’, she said. The innocence of her!

Mrs Divine feigned shock, and commented on how authentic dressing up clothes have become of late. My mind began to wander – in the manner of Walter Mitty.

I would love a ‘Liz Hurley’ dressing up suit. Yes, I would require vacuum packing in order to fit into it, and a considerable amount of ‘corsetry’ for it to be believable, but what a hoot that would be. I don’t think I would ever take it off.

Why is it that the children have all the fun?

Sunday, 11 March 2007

Vintage parents

By the swings in Dulwich Park on Sunday afternoon, I heard a 'vintage' dad - (all Dulwich children have mature parents at the very least) angrily chastise his three year old daughter:

'Don't ask me to pick you up again Emily, you know I have a bad back.'

Mature parents are those poor mothers and fathers who started a family in their mid- thirties, and make up at least two thirds of local parents here in leafy middle class suburbia. The rest of the parents by the swings on any given Sunday afternoon, consist of silver haired vintage papa's (at least fifty years of age), accompanied by substantially younger - but still early thirties ex trophy wives (exhaustion plays havoc with the complexion and hair darling!).

There is much more to leaving the wife and family for a younger model than they anticipated. There is the dreaded second family - don't men realise? (ha, ha, ha). A second round of sleepless nights, breastfeeding, potty training and tantrums await any man who dares to leave his faithful and exhausted wife just as the teenage children head off to University.

Pay back time..... It really is so satisfying to observe.

Saturday, 10 March 2007

Dangerous driving

The law of the land has changed of late, and about time too in my opinion. Three points and a fine of sixty pounds is now the penalty for driving while conversing on a mobile phone and I believe it to be appropriate and fair.

To my horror, I have noticed young (particularly male) drivers, careering along with their music blaring in their 'boy racer' vehicles, chatting on their telephones. This is indeed less focused concentration than required to drive safely on the roads.

I will endeavour to no longer answer my mobile phone when driving (rats..... these laws apply to me too!). I suppose also, therefore texting (and sending Email on my Blackberry) is out of the question? Doh! Another three points and a fine of sixty pounds...

When will the law change however, to stop dangerously exhausted parents driving with their ever demanding children in their cars? How distracting is that do you suppose?

The mother - jiggling up and down enthusiastically to a 'Monkey Music' recording, in an effort to distract the little darlings (screaming baby Ceciley in the front passenger seat and obstreperous toddler Felix in the back). Responding to shouted requests for a drink, raisins or a rice cake.

Several times, in an exhaustion induced haze, I have responded to demands for the retrieval of a dropped toy from the floor of the back of the car - whilst stationary at traffic lights. Am I alone in this?

Children's car seats will only ever be safe, when they include a pair of handcuffs and a gag for the child (ha, ha). Exhausted parents can have concentration no better than that of a drunk driver at times.

I think that driving a family tank, without at least six hours sleep in the presence of small children and accompanied by nursery tunes should merit three points and a fine of sixty pounds .... surely?

Actually, slap the cuffs straight on these women and send them all immediately to jail. I would rather engage in an argument with a gun toting gangsta rapper than an exhausted mother regarding who is at fault in a car accident.

I would choose to tackle drug fueled testosterone over exhaustion enhanced oestrogen on every occasion.

These Dulwichmums are indeed a scarey exhausted bunch of muthas!

Friday, 9 March 2007


Isn't it simply darling, the way that the little ones can become so very attached to some particular cuddly toy or another? Max has his much loved 'Polo Bear' - not a polar bear, but a brown 'Ralph Lauren' bear that some serf in James' office brought home from America for our baby son, shortly after he was born.

I hate Ralph Lauren (it's so common), so Polo 'lost' his loud red jumper with the logo shortly after his arrival. Max instantly loved Polo Bear, and so 'that was that', he became an important member of our family.

Freya has a small grey whale she calls 'Ginger' (I know it's not an obvious name for a grey whale), and she too, is very attached to him. I can't remember where Ginger came from. The children no longer need to bring their special comfort toys everywhere with them during the day, but even now they could never sleep at night or take long journeys in the car without Polo Bear and Ginger.

Our children are really extensions of ourselves. They can read us so well, and always pick up on our moods and anxieties, it is no wonder they turn to their toys for comfort. We must be so careful of what we say in front of the children. They are not diplomatic, and say whatever comes into their heads, repeating everything they hear and usually are too honest for their own good.

Children are never simply quiet - they are always listening, always learning....

Henry (my brother in law) has introduced many of his girlfriends to us over the years. Bianca (last year) was a 'dancer' too - although I didn't get the impression that she was a ballerina like Helena. From the way that she dressed, I assumed that she was more of an 'exotic' dancer. I couldn't bring myself to ask.

I think Henry brought Bianca to our home to make us uncomfortable - knowing I would fear that the neighbours would see her. Bianca had long finger nails like great jewel coloured bananas, and her mane of bleached hair could not possibly have grown from her head - it grew from a bob to waist length over the course of a few weeks. She left bright red lip-stick marks on my children's faces, and her jewellery jingled loudly when she walked on her dangerously high shoes.

Bianca noticed Freya's love of Ginger, and remarked on the way our baby girl liked to rub her ear lobe with the little fury whale. I don't know why Freya does this, she just does.

'What is your toy saying to you?', Bianca asked Freya one Saturday morning.

Freya looked at Bianca as though she had just landed off the moon and replied dismissively:

'Ginger is just a toy, he can't talk, you silly'.

Oh dear, Freya was rather hostile. She will have picked that up from me. I was afraid that Bianca would slice up the children with her great finger nails, it was like having Edward Scissor Hands as a babysitter.

During the same visit I remember poor Bianca asking Freya:

'Why do you call your grey whale 'Ginger'?'

Freya replied in a superior tone:

'Because that is his name'.

I have been careful ever since to try to restrain and work on my prejudices and small mindedness, protecting the poor impressionable children. It would be dreadful indeed to pass on such prejudices to Freya, she could grow up to be like Grandma Elizabeth - or me!

Perhaps my mother in law and I are more alike than we would care to admit!

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Appropriate attire

We went to The Horniman Museum on Sunday morning, to meet with friends and provide the little ones with some stimulation and an opportunity for a run around on an otherwise miserable and overcast day. The Horniman is an ideal popular local choice on any day of the year. The gardens are glorious in summer, and the inside is interesting and cavernous in the rain.

The children danced to the vibrant live Brazilian music, 'oohed and aaahed' at the Walking with Beasts exhibition, stuck their faces up against the enormous fish tanks in The Aquarium and made thunderous noises in The Music Room - and all prior to lunch!

It was exhausting. Just as we sat down to a welcome coffee break (ha, ha - more like a bun fight in the jam packed coffee shop), Freya announced loudly;

'I want to go to the toilet'.

Don't you just hate when they do that? The brown speckled froth on the top of my cappuccino was calling my name, but no. We marched into the toilet and she climbed up onto the loo. It was then that Freya shared a small detail she omitted to tell me earlier before we left home;

'I have none pants on mummy'.

Freya has been showing her 'free spirit' tendencies of late, I dress her - she undresses herself, although usually to be fair, it is just her socks. MYHEART!!!

I wonder if Emma Noble's mother had any warning that her daughter would grow up to dress so .... sparsely. I remember that time Emma Noble turned up to a film premier on the arm of the then PM - John Major's son, wearing a minute net curtain of a dress and some pants.

My mother commented at the time;

'that girl is giving everyone the wrong impression'.

James looked up from over the top of his newspaper and replied;

'No Brenda, she is probably giving everyone the right impression',

and you know, looking back - he was right. Ah, well the gift of hindsight is a wonderful thing.

'Who cares', I said to Freya,

'if it is good enough for Britney Spears'...............

Actually now, somebody reassure me please... Freya will grow out of this, won't she?

Wednesday, 7 March 2007


I hate that acronym. My mother-in-law uses it regularly. Actually, Grandma Elizabeth (she hates it when I call her that) uses this expression mostly when talking about, or more recently to me. It means 'not our class darling' - and she uses it because clearly, I require instruction on how to conduct myself.

When Max was just a baby, James insisted I traded in my Volkswagen Golf, and bought me a new BMW X5. It was the delight of my life for approximately 3 weeks, until a new series commenced on TV - Footballers Wives. One of the most outrageous wives, Tania drove an identical model to my new vehicle. Grandma Elizabeth came to visit and used her special catch phrase/acronym; 'That new car - it is simply NOCD', and the car was immediately confined to the garage. I was deeply offended, and could not even bring myself to touch it again to remove the baby seat.

What really upset me was the patronising way Grandma Elizabeth took pleasure in pointing out what she believed to be my mistake. She clearly decided that the car had been 'my' choice. She could not justifiably refer to the model of car as 'common' - because they certainly were not common five years ago. It smacked of 'new money' she said, and 'plenty of it, just not the correct impression to give the neighbours'.

Then there was my lovely mint green Smeg chic fridge. I loved that fridge (prior to the installation of my current minimalist type Poggenpohl kitchen). I loved the whole retro Cath Kidston thing, and the colour was so twee! Divine.

Sharon from Eastenders returned to Albert Square (again - yes another soap) and installed an identical fridge in her new MFI kitchen in The Vic. I had nightmares about the comments I could expect from Grandma Elizabeth, and I began to experiment with Pritt stick and aluminium foil - in an effort to obscure the similarities between my fridge and the one on TV.

In the end, the fridge was replaced - along with the kitchen, as I almost had a panic attack every time Grandma Elizabeth decided to visit. She really doesn't approve of me at all you know.

Recently our au pair Ana has pointed out the fact that the Battersby family from Coronation Street (I know I have no social life - but hey, my children are young), have the same breed of dog as Grandma Elizabeth!

I casually referred to her treasured dog 'The Major' as Schmichael the last time I visited. Oh the satisfaction...... Grandma Elizabeth almost expired!

Shhhhhhhhhhh that dog is just NOCD!

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Open morning

It was open morning for Freya's class at the nursery school this morning. James was in Melbourne on business, and so I was forced to attend alone. I dropped Freya off at 9am as usual, and went to wait with the other parents in the staff room. It was pure pleasure to catch up with our delightful high-achieving peers. It is not easy keeping up to date with the children's friends and complex social lives as I am not at the school gate every day.

The super dinner ladies from the school provided us with light refreshments, and while the mothers chit chatted, the fathers stood around and fiddled with their various high tech DVD recording appliances. I kept ours in my bag, the last time I tried to use it I forgot to take the lens cover off!

After about ten minutes we were ushered into the class room, to observe all of the children occupied in the display of various tasks and projects. I walked purposefully to the far corner, where Freya was busy organising assorted objects on a colourful alphabet mat. Her objective was to put the appropriate object on each letter, and she was speeding through her allocated task. She was already putting a hat on 'H'.

'Oh, baby girl you are such a clever little darling', I gushed.

'Do go away mummy - I'm doing big girl hard work,' she replied with a twinkle in her eye.

She is just like her father. Freya really is my sweet little munchkin. A career in the legal profession beckons for her I am sure. She is articulate, a strong personality and a natural leader.

I tried to stay away and appear interested in the tasks being carried out by other people's children, I toured the tables, noticing the complex tasks occupying the precious offspring, - an ice experiment with perfect Mrs Tamworth:

'Does this piece of ice float or sink?,' she asked the mesmerised tiny people, and then went on to experiment with them in a large basin.

'Will this salt help ice to melt? Will this sand help ice to melt? Or will all of the ice melt at the same rate?', she continued.

Clearly that little group are destined for a career in scientific research, how very disappointing for their parents. Everyone knows it is impossible to make a living from the sciences. Once again smiling like a Cheshire cat as I found myself standing next to my darling baby girl...

'Do go away Mummy', she said, 'I have work to do'.

Scolded once more, I skulked away and went to look in the home corner; decorated as a shoe shop, where little Hugo was adding and taking away. He was just divine, and such a natural aptitude with numbers! Clearly a banker in the making, his parents were so proud...

Just as I was working my way back to Freya, we were corralled into the main hall, to observe a music and drama display. The children were happily executing their various well rehearsed parts. I found myself sobbing in floods of tears. Some of Freya's perfect little friends shall all be actors or dancers! Never mind, perhaps they shall marry well. What a shame, and still so young.

It was all so perfect. My daughter has apparently turned into a very well behaved girl in the last 10 days at school! No more petulance, she is now absorbed and occupied. They are all model pupils.

Today I was a very proud mummy.

I love being a parent. I should try to remember this place I am in right now, I don't find it too often.........

I shall telephone Hugo's Mummy to arrange a play date.

Monday, 5 March 2007

Smoking Kills

Tonight I returned from work, to find that we had been unexpectedly graced (for the second time in a fortnight) with a visit by my gauche brother-in-law Henry. His dreadful colourful sports car parked on our drive, I could smell Aqua di Parma aftershave half way down Alleyn Road.

As soon as I opened the front door - I could smell........(shock, horror) CIGARETTE SMOKE!!!! Can you believe it? We have never allowed a single soul to smoke in our home. Everyone knows passive smoking is completely detrimental to the health of children. Max has glue ear and is prone to asthma attacks. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

I marched through the house with the determination of the child catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang , to find my traumatised au pair - Ana, Henry and his new girlfriend 'Helena' - a ballerina, smoking in the conservatory! I was horrified.

There she sat, elegant and sinewy, poised like a lean cat and smoking a long brown cigarette as though she owned my home. I was speechless, consumed with rage.

'This is the hysterical mother?', she asked as she stretched out her long twig like hand to shake mine! How could I speak, confronted by such ignorance? My feet felt as though they had been cemented to the floor.

Max marched into the room with a book about murderous dinosaurs, and plonked himself heavily at Helena's feet. He began to stare, wide eyed and open mouthed with amazement, hyptnotised as he watched every detail, the slow inhalation, exhalation, and movement of her hand pinching the cigarette... Max has never seen anyone smoke before.

'Whatever is the boy staring at?' - snapped Helena.

Before I could think of an appropriate reply, Max volunteered:

'Smoking makes you dead, doesn't it mummy?'

'Yes', I replied, - in a panicky superior tone.

'I have never seen anyone dead before, can I watch Helena while you get deaded?' he asked. (I must admit I almost corrected him: 'While she dies darling').

From the mouths of babes.......... I kid you not. The cigarette was extinguished, and that woman marched out of my home! Hurrah. Little boys, don't you just love them?

Sunday, 4 March 2007


I was dashing down Park Hall Road on Saturday evening, rushing with Freya to be home in time for tea. We had been in The Dulwich Trader trying on shoes for far too long. Freya loves to try on the high heels and necklaces, and totters about for the lovely assistants - a bag swinging off her shoulder. My baby (Mini me) loves an audience.

A super chum of mine appeared from one of the shop doorways and virtually kidnapped us into her shop. She said she 'had been watching out for (us) to return for an absolute age'. Suze explained that she had earlier in the day accepted receipt (purchased via the Internet from the USA) of a new 'wonder cream' called Athena 7 minute lift, which she said has been hailed as the alternative to expensive facial injections.

Suze told me that I am the only woman she knows who has a 'Botox and filler free face' in the whole of SE21! I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, but before I could process the comment, I found myself sitting on an armchair, make-up removed, and having the preparation dabbed onto my face.

'Don't move an inch' insisted Suze, 'you are the only way I can find out if this stuff actually works'.......

'That deep line there, I had one of those once', she said, 'and I will not let my Botox wear off until I know for sure.'

I am horrified that my daughter witnessed this. I was practically being used by Suze as her personal laboratory test animal. 'You are using me like a smoking beagle', I shrieked with laughter, my furrows accentuated.

'You have spoiled it now' said Suze scornfully, 'you must promise to return to me on Monday, so I can test it properly'.

When we eventually managed to return home, James asked me why we had been gone so long. 'Suze used Mummy as a bagel' explained Freya. I offered no further explanation to my darling husband, my ego is bruised enough - I don't want to hi-light my apparent similarities with a Chinese Shar Pei.

Now where is that phone number that Suze gave me?..........

Saturday, 3 March 2007

Health Promotion

Why is it, that when I ask my darling children to eat their broccoli or carrots, they look at me blankly, ask for more ketchup and eat their meat and pasta only?

'Wow, just look at your eyes sparkle' I enthuse, as Freya nibbles on the corner of a carrot before tossing it back onto her plate. 'Your skin is glowing and healthy', I tell Max, as he eats the tiniest Florette of broccoli......, they are unmoved by my encouragement. 'We hate vegetables', they insisted, until the school nurse came and talked to them in assembly....

I collected the little poppets from school yesterday afternoon, and when I distributed their usual Friday treat of three wholemeal biscuits each - I was met by filthy looks, and shaming comments (no, not from the other parents - for a change!).

'Mummy, really - sweets and biscuits will never help us to grow big and strong, they will cause childhood obversity', objected Max.

'Fine', I thought. I care not where this insight is coming from, but any help is welcome. The children prize the advice of any grown up given directly to them, particularly the advice of any adult in a uniform; school nurse, dentist, policeman/woman or fire man/person... pah, (why is everything so bloomin PC complicated?)

Yes, the babies refused to show the dentist their teeth during their last visit. They had actually been brushing their teeth rather sporadically, and not allowing me to help them. But, the dentist gave them special brushes, and a tiny tube of special toothpaste each, and wow, they have been polishing their teeth regularly since. Max and Freya should grow up to have smiles to rival the Osmonds!

Praise the Lord for the professionals - I say. Aim the health promotion initiatives at the children, I'm not proud. The munchkins don't listen to me, I am just their mother....

Friday, 2 March 2007


I left my darling chicks this fine bright morning rather earlier than usual. I had a full day of interviewing potential graduate trainees ahead of me.

There they lay on the carpet, having finished their wholemeal bagels and milk, and leafing through the latest copy of the Mini Boden catalogue, selecting their Spring wardrobe. Max wants every t-shirt that has a shark on the front (three) and Freya will not be wearing skirts or dresses. That is the life.......... They really are a lucky pair, I would love not to work sometimes.

'Have you brushed your teeth?' I asked, before I ran out the door. I received no reply. Even now they look at me as though I am silly when I ask them the most sensible questions. 'Ana will take care of that', I thought and left. I am so lucky with my wonderful au pair.

My mother came for lunch on Sunday, and so I had the time to read again through the application forms to prepare for today. Mother asked:

'You won't employ anyone with a 'first' - surely?'

'Well, I would hope so', I replied. 'We have some very strong candidates here, several firsts from Oxbridge actually'.

'No, you can't employ a first, and certainly not from Oxbridge - that would be such a mistake', - she insisted.

'Whatever are you talking about mother?' I snapped.

'Some chap gets a first from Oxbridge - well he is too studious - clearly, he would have Asbergers! He has not been in the students union bar even once, and he certainly will not have had the time for sport or being a member of the debating society now will he? He is not a team player, can't co-operate with others, no communication skills at all.'

'I can see where you are coming from mother, but where are you gaining your insight from?' I asked sarcastically (she hasn't worked outside the home since 1963).

'I wouldn't even interview someone with a 3rd, she insisted, or a 2:2, but a 2:1 - an all rounder I would say, from a red brick university, but not from Oxbridge - those people are born with silver spoons - and they expect the world owes them a living,' she insisted most authoritatively.

Has she been listening to Radio 3 again? Perhaps she has been reading a newspaper instead of The Daily Mail, or talking to her crazy next door neighbour Mrs Jones? My mother will always treat me as though I am a small child who needs to be directed in everything I do.

This afternoon, I selected a candidate with a first from Oxford, who swam the channel for the Tsunami appeal, So there mother. I still love to get my own way.

Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I am sure that boy had Asbergers.

Thursday, 1 March 2007

As easy as.......

My brother in law Henry drives me out of my tiny mind. He is my husband's younger brother (by eighteen months), and treats James and me like a pair of senile old timers. Henry is the type of chap who considers himself to be casually dressed when he wears jeans with his Thomas Pink pin stripe shirts. I expect Henry was born wearing cuff-links and braces.

Henry has a terribly important job; he works in that angular MI5 building up beside Vauxhall Bridge, and drives a dreadfully ostentatious Porsche 911 convertible in loud metallic blue. He usually turns up at the house unannounced, and never remembers the children’s birthdays.

Henry arrived last weekend, smelling of beer from the night before and looking like he would benefit from a shave. He implied that he had spent the night locally with a young lady, but we deliberately did not enquire any further – it is (in our experience) always best not to allow too much detail. He referred to Ana (our au-pair) as ‘delicious’, I hope she doesn’t leave now. Henry is a real slime ball.

James and Henry took the children out on their bicycles for a half an hour, and apparently Uncle Henry made lots of negative comments on how little Max;

‘cannot even ride his bicycle without stabilizers yet – even though he is five years old’, according to Freya.

Henry bought Max the expensive Puccy bicycle in The London Recumbent Bicycle Shop in Dulwich Park, five summers ago on a whim. Max was so tiny then, that he could not even support his own head. The yellow and blue bicycle had a 'push' handle attached to the saddle which we removed late last summer.

I will not put pressure on Max to allow us to remove the stabilizers until he says he is ready.

‘Childhood is not a race. He will have plenty of time for cycling without stabilizers as he grows up,’ I have insisted to Henry in the past.

‘Let him be. I have never met a 20 year old who cannot pedal a bicycle.’

This morning the children wanted to cycle to school, and so Ana and I took the bicycles out of the garage. The children were a hundred yards down the road, when Max’s stabilizers appeared to become unstable, and then the poor child fell flat on his nose. The darling boy cried for an age. Apparently Uncle Henry had loosened the stabilizers to encourage Max to ‘find his balance himself’, Ana lamented. She feels terribly responsible – the poor girl.

I am so annoyed. Why does he interfere? Henry has no children of his own, does he not remember how hard it is to be a little child, to have to learn everything from the beginning. Life should be an an adventure, not a competition.

I telephoned James to express my disgust and annoyance, and to my surprise James informed me that Uncle Henry has never learned to pedal a bicycle himself….Plonker!

Osama Bin Laden must be living in fear......